just push play

REVIEW: Aerosmith – Just Push Play (2001 2 CD Japanese edition)

AEROSMITH – Just Push Play (2001 Sony Japan 2 CD set)

Funny thing about some pretty bad albums: sometimes the bands con you into buying them twice. They do this with bonus tracks you may need and can’t find elsewhere. Aerosmith have been guilty of this on multiple occasions. You know what they say about fools and money.

In 2001, Aerosmith did it with Just Push Play. They placed a bonus track on the European CD (“Face”), and a completely different set of bonus tracks in Japan…but excluding “Face”. As one of the looser songs on a pretty stiff album, “Face” is pretty enjoyable.  So what about Japan’s exclusive song, “Won’t Let You Down”?  Well, for one it’s heavy.  For Aerosmith, it’s really heavy.  You could picture it on a better album like Nine Lives.  Though not perfect it’s a damn fine latter-day Aerosmith track.  It just needs another hook.

“Won’t Let You Down” and its associated Joe Perry guitar wizardry is the most interesting of the bonus tracks, but that doesn’t mean the rest are not.  Though “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” is more than slightly boring today, it was Aerosmith’s biggest hit to date.  This was the first time it appeared on an Aerosmith album, and only in Japan.

The second CD has a diverse stew of bonuses.  The first is a 3:17 radio remix of “Just Push Play”.  It’s mostly a matter of making the guitar, drums and other elements more prominent in the mix.  It’s quite a bit better than the album cut, though just as silly.  You gotta wonder if anybody in the studio told Steven to try it without the rasta accent.  That’s the remix I want to hear, because the chorus is great.

Moving on to live rarities, Aerosmith included a handful of previously released tracks that weren’t necessarily already in your collection.  First up:  California Jam II.  “Same Old Song and Dance”, “Draw the Line” and “Chip Away the Stone” were all available on the various artists album California Jam II.  If you have this, you don’t need to buy that.  The year was 1978 and Aerosmith were still cooking live.  Whether it comes from youthful or chemical energy, these tracks are faster than their studio counterparts.  Rough and dirty live Aerosmith without the backing tapes and fixes:  what’s not to love?  “Draw the Line” has more…definition?…than the original.  Still, smoking so hot that Joe Perry probably melted his strings.  It’s just plain great to any live version of “Chip Away the Stone“.  Top five Aerosmith song?  Welcome to the collection.

That’s not all folks, as we stick to 1978 and the famous Texxas Jam.  “Big Ten-Inch Record” and “Lord of the Thighs” would be familiar if you own Pandora’s Box.  Strange they included two tracks that were readily available, but here they are and there’s nothing wrong with ’em.

A brief word on the album Just Push Play itself.  We’ve already reviewed it in full, so let’s not rehash.  Joe Perry’s least favourite Aerosmith albumy panders for hits in the most embarrassing ways.  Hi-tech recording and outside songwriters watered it down.  The old Tyler/Perry combination was not to be found on a single track.  The other three guys have not a single writing credit between them.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

If you’re a masochist like me, you’ll want to get this one for the bonus tracks.  If not, just stay away.

Just Push Play1/5 stars

Bonus CD – 3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Aerosmith – Just Push Play (2001 import version with bonus track)

scan_20170109AEROSMITH – Just Push Play (2001 Sony, includes bonus track “Face”)

“I don’t think we’ve made a decent album in years. Just Push Play is my least favorite.” – Joe Perry

The sad and depressing fact of the matter is, Aerosmith could have retired long before Just Push Play, and we would have lost nothing terribly valuable.  They’ve pandered for hits before, but never as blatantly contrived as Just Push Play.  It’s an embarrassing state of affairs that deserves every inch of scorn we’re about to unload upon it.

Hi-tech digital tracks written and produced with outsiders make up Just Push Play, a weak attempt to be young hip and cool when Aerosmith were anything but. Look at the sleek haircuts in the band photo. Only Joe Perry appears to know what band he’s in. The album was recorded with sterility. At no time were all five members in the studio together, according to Joe, and that’s exactly how it sounds.

If their heads weren’t in the clouds (coming off their biggest hit single ever) they might have made a rock album.  “Beyond Beautiful” is a close imitation, a robotic and stiff carbon copy.  Ballads like “Fly Away From Here” sound as if faxed in from the office.  These blatant attempts to repeat past glories are among the most offensive on Just Push Play.  It is true that one of Aerosmith’s first hits (“Dream On”) was a ballad.  That was a long time ago and a long way from being flat broke and banging out a song in the middle of the night on a piano.  These new ballads like “Luv Lies” and “Sunshine” are written specifically by hitsmiths in order to appeal to people who would not normally buy an Aerosmith CD.  The result is that they appeal to nobody.

As bland and unappealing as these forgettable ballads are, none are as offensive as the title track “Just Push Play”.  Nobody asked Aerosmith to do a rasta-hip-hop track.  The Run-DMC version of “Walk This Way” is the definitive Aero-rap, a masterpiece of serendipity and cutting edge ambition.  Aerosmith thought it was necessary to revisit that sound 15 years later, and once again the result is a blurry facsimile that pales in comparison.

“Jaded”, the first single, is a great Aero-hit, one of the few from this era of co-writers and collaborators.  Fortunately you don’t have to buy the album to get it, as there was a five track EP you could buy instead.  If you go that way, you can still enjoy a couple different versions of the charismatic single.  “Jaded” had the kind of chorus that Aerosmith used to be able to write in their sleep, but now apparently need help to do.

There were different bonus tracks for different regions.  US and Canada got nil, but Europe got “Face” while Japan received “Won’t Let You Down” and a bunch of other stuff including five live tracks from 1978 (California and Texxas Jams).  That 2 CD Japanese edition might be worth tracking down for the bonus material, but “Face” remained exclusive to Europe.  Is it worth it?  Actually…it might be.  “Face” is an acoustic track that sounds a bit like a B-side.  It’s closest to “Jaded” in sound, and sounds looser than most of the rest of the album.  It’s certainly not going to become a lost favourite, but if you find a copy at the right price, consider it.

Just Push Play deserves the dreaded Flaming Turd.

FLAMING TURDS

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Aerosmith – Jaded (2001 EP)

Scan_20150922AEROSMITH – Jaded (2001 Sony EP)

It’s not unfair to suggest that I might be a little J-J-Jaded when it comes to 2000-era Aerosmith. People ask me when I think the decline hit. I answer, the abomination that is “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”.  Nine Lives was a good album.  It might not be an Aerosmith classic, but it was good, no two-ways about it.  By the time Aerosmith hit 2001 with Just Push Play, the co-writers and love ballads had taken over completely.

That said, the first single from Just Push Play, “Jaded”, was a pretty good song.  Joe Perry didn’t write that guitar hook, but it’s more the drum part that I am drawn to.  Joey Kramer was capable of turning crap into class (not that “Jaded” is crap), he is so talented.  “Jaded” boasts both catchy verses and choruses, and is firmly ensconced in acoustic-electric-pop land.  I think it’s a great track actually, but in the context of its album, it was one of very few.  You can handle something like this as a commercial track on a single.  On an album where each song is more sold-out than the last, “Jaded” was a very minor victory.

But wait, there’s more!  There is an acoustic and a “guitars mix” of “Jaded” as well.  The stripped down acoustic version is pretty cool although it lacks punch.  If you want to hear the song taken back to the basics without embellishment, here it is, and it’s still a good song.  It just misses the soft/loud contrast of the album version.  The guitar mix is the opposite.  It’s the album track with the electric guitar parts turned up in lieu of the strings.  So with the three tracks, you kind of get it in the full spectrum, from the light to the heavy.  (Incidentally, there’s also a radio remix of “Jaded” out there, on a 2 CD version of Just Push Play from Japan that I don’t have.)

“Angel Eye” is a non-album track from the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack, saving you from buying that CD for one song.  Thankfully it’s a heavy song, but without any serious hooks.  The guitar riff is devastating, but once again, Joe didn’t write it.  When it comes to this aeon of Aerosmith, perhaps we should just be grateful for a heavy song, period?

The final track is a bit of a throw-away at a mere 1:00.  “Under My Skin” sounds like an album outro, or a piece of incidental music recorded for a soundtrack.  I guess it’s a teaser for the full-length song that appeared on the album?  Too bad because “Under My Skin” is one of the most irritating songs on Just Push Play.  I don’t recognize this bit from the song, but I also don’t really want to investigate any further.

2/5 stars

Scan_20150922 (2)

REVIEW/GUEST SHOT: Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension! (2012 deluxe edition)

It’s always great to have a contrasting point of view when it comes to a new release.  So, my buddy Tommy Morais, one of the top-rated reviewers on the Canadian Amazon site, is back to give us his two cents.  Tommy got the standard edition of the new ‘Smith, while I got the deluxe.  Neither of us had read the others’ review when we did this.

I’ll go first.  Here’s my take on the deluxe:

SAM_1712

AEROSMITH – Music From Another Dimension! (Deluxe Edition)

When an album is a decade or so in the making (hello, Axl!), it is only certain to create one thing:  expectation.  And it’s difficult to approach the new Aero-platter without expectation, seeing as the pre-release hype was absolutely gonzo.  “Sounds like our old stuff!  Sounds like Rocks!”  Etc. etc. etc.

The truth of the matter is, on Music From Another Dimension! there are elements that sound like classic Aerosmith.  Mostly, it’s in Joe Perry’s riffs.  Otherwise, this album is firmly in Get A Grip territory, minus Bruce Fairbairn’s trademark flourish.

The opening track, the dumb-titled “Luv XXX” contains one of those vintage 70’s sounding Joe Perry riffs, as does the next song “Oh Yeah”.  Both are really decent songs, with “Oh Yeah” getting points for cool female backing vocals.  Perhaps if “Oh Yeah” had been on Pump rather than this album, it would have been a hit single.

“Beautiful” is the first song that I strongly dislike.  Not only does it have a dull chorus, but Tyler thought it would be a good idea to spend the verses rapping.  Not exactly a return to Rocks, is it Steven?  There is seldom anything as embarrassing as a rock band attempting genre-hopping into rap, unless that’s already your modus operandi, like Rage Against the Machine for example.  Rush pulled it off once (“Roll the Bones”) but Aerosmith come off as desperate.

The first ballad, “Tell Me”, is up next.  An acoustic ballad along the lines of a song like “What It Takes”, this is an acceptable song, but it lacks a decent chorus.  Nothing outstanding.  I enjoy Tom Hamilton’s rolling bassline underneath.

Then comes “Out Go the Lights”, which captures the Aerofunk of old.  It has some funky harmonica and the return of the girls on backing vocals.  Joey Kramer’s unmistakable drums sound absolutely massive.  I think this one must be one of the oldest tunes on the album.  It shares one section with “My Girl” from Pump, indicating a probable genesis back in 1989.  It also shares a melody with the next song, the overrated single “Legendary Child”.  “Legendary Child” is overproduced with too many layers of vocals, but Tom’s bass just kicks you in the nuts.  It’s strange to hear one melody used more than once on an album, but that is perhaps because of the patchwork nature of the recording, and the fact that Aerosmith dug back into the archives for unfinished songs.

Let’s just skip “What Could Have Been Love”, which is basically the same as any Aero-ballad since Get A Grip.  Instead, go straight to “Street Jesus”, an monolithic slab of riffery.  This one could have been on Rocks or Toys.  The whiplash-inducing tempo will leave you out of breath!

But why, oh why Aerosmith, did you bookend that awesome song with another typical Aero-ballad?  And this one a duet with Carrie Underwood?  So contrived.  I really can’t see Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton (who co-wrote the song) sitting around at home going, “You know, we really need to get a country singer on our album.”  Nothing against Carrie Underwood, I would have jumped at the chance to record with Aerosmith too.

“Lover Alot” is another single, and even though it’s uptempo, it suffers from lack of melody and really dumb repetitive lyrics.  Tyler’s normally a very clever lyricist.  This is just below him.

Ah don’t you know that she loves you a lot
Why don’t you know, don’t you know what you got
I even know that she loves you a lot
Why don’t you know that she loves you a lot
Ah don’t you know that she loves you a lot
Why don’t you know, don’t you know what you got
I even know that she loves you a lot
Why don’t you know, don’t you know, don’t you?

Seriously.

“We All Fall Down” is the fourth ballad, but a decent one.  I can hear some serious emotion coming out of this one.  Like “Amazing” from Get A Grip, this one has something special to it that speaks to me, be it the melancholy melody or the lyrics, I don’t know.

Joe Perry’s first lead vocal of the album, “Freedom Fighter”, is a surprisingly strong tune.  I really like this one.  Granted, it has the vibe of something that could have been on Joe’s last solo album, but that’s not a bad thing.  It’s a great song even if Joe ain’t the greatest of singers.

“Closer” isn’t really a ballad, more of a blues, featuring some smokin’ Joe guitar.  It’s good to have some Aero-blues on a well balanced album, although I think the melody leaves a bit to be desired.  This goes straight into the organ intro of “Something”, which is another bluesy number, and Joe’s second lead vocal.  Better than “Closer”, this one really hits the spot.

“Another Last Goodbye” is the fifth ballad.  It’s a basic Steve piano ballad, and I don’t mind this one either.  It sounds sincere and has a live vibe.   This is what a song like “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” should have been.

That ends the album proper, but the deluxe edition has a cool bonus disc.  A really cool bonus disc, well worth buying.

“Up on the Mountain” is a great little number featuring Tom on lead vocals with Steven backing him. Then Joe gets a third lead vocal on the incredible “Oasis in the Night”.  Lots of lap steel here.  This sounds like something that Joe might play on his front porch on a hot summer night.  Just a cool tune.  Finally, “Sunny Side of Love” is a melodic Aerosmith tune that probably should have been on the album proper, replacing some of the weaker songs.

Aside from Carrie Underwood, there are a slew of guest appearances that you can’t even hear — Johnny Depp, Julian Lennon, and so on.  Who cares?  Nobody buys an Aerosmith album because Johnny Depp is on it.

There’s a DVD too with live stuff on it.  Typical live Aerosmith, it’s nice to have something recent, this is just an added bonus.  Nothing really “must-have” here.

I think Music From Another Dimension!‘s biggest weakness is its length.  15 songs (+3) could easily have been trimmed to 10 (or 13).  When you trim the fat though, it’s a solid…

4/5 stars

And now, without further delay, here’s Tommy!

Aerosmith_-_MFAD

AEROSMITH – Music From Another Dimension! (standard edition)

It’s been eleven years since the last Aerosmith studio album, 2001’s Just Push Play (and there’s also been the 2004 covers album Honkin’ On Bobo) which was really a product of its time with the band collaborating with producers that gave them a clean modern pop sound. This time around they brought back producer Jack Douglas who worked on some of the band’s best albums in the 1970’s. With the inner problems in the band and the near breakup, Steven Tyler doing American Idol fans were beginning to wonder if there was any recording going. It took a long time but Aerosmith’s 15th studio album, Music From Another Dimension is here. Initially the band said it would be a throwback to Toys in the Attics (1975) and Rocks (1976) and there are glimpses of that, but there’s also glimpses of the 80’s and 90’s Aerosmith too and a LOT of ballads. It’s as if all eras of the band are blended in one album and that’s their sound in 2012. I got to hand it to them, for a band of men in their 60’s there’s some pretty rocking material here, and I find that the band does vocal harmonies quite a lot this time around and it’s working rather well (actually they sound like they wouldn’t be out of place on a Def Leppard album). There’s some good but to me it’s an overall underwhelming Aerosmith album.

The ups with MFAD are the strong rock tracks. In fact the album starts off rather with a string of three solid rock songs. “LUV XXX” starts out with a spoken intro before kicking it into high gear, I wish the entire album was like this, it’s genuinely one of the best Aerosmith songs that’s been done since the 1970’s. It has that vibe from Toys/Rocks era and it’s fantastic. “Beautiful” is commercial Aerosmith at its best, it’s catchy, the vocal harmonies are excellent and the songs is very likeable as a whole. “ Legendary Child“ is a Grip a Grip era song that never saw the light of day. I was intrigued at first and when I listened to it I thought to myself “this could work”, and it does it rocks and it’s catchy enough I really like this one. “Can’t Stop Loving You” with Carrie Underwood is puzzling, having her on an Aerosmith album is obviously not going too well with some of the fans and it’s just not that good of a duet. “This Could Have Been Love” was chosen as the single and no surprise, it’s a ballad. I actually like this one, even if it’s a 1990’s Aero ballad rehash sounding or cheesy or sappy, I can acknowledge all of this but it still works for what is. “Street Jesus” has more of a classic rock edge to it, with even some jamming parts and the result is a longer, more vintage sounding track that works fairly well, it’s one of those the hardcore fans will enjoy the most. The Joe Perry sung track “Freedom Fighter” is one of the best songs on this album for me, it’s got a good Perry riff and even thought his voice isn’t particularly great the song manages to rocks.”Another Last Goodbye” is a fitting ballad to end the album with but it’s overshadowed by the fact that there are too many other ballads to truly stand out.

The first half of the album, I have generally good things to say about and it sounds promising and it makes you think that yes, maybe Aerosmith has some of the old rock sound we love back and it’s going to be an entire album like this. Then there’s the second side, filled with ballads and it really breaks the album’s flow. A big part of the problem is that the album suffers from the too much ballads syndrome that was present on albums like Get A Grip, and they sound mostly like 1990’s Aerosmith ballads. Six/seven (depending on who you ask) ballads on an album is just too much, and I like ballads but these are for the most part just sappy and rehashed songs that they’ve already done, except not as good or passionate. There’s just no overlooking that many ballads is overkill. The worst part is a duet with Carrie Underwood, no offense but what’s she doing on an Aerosmith album? Especially one which was reported as “back to their roots”. I found some of the lyrics here to be the band’s most juvenile yet, which is rather humorous coming from men in their sixties. Then again the album has 15 tracks, maybe a little too much and if they removed some of the ballads and Diane Warren songs (still using outside writers it seems) it would have come across as a tighter effort, it comes across as a modern version of Get A Grip (some good rock songs, plenty of ballads and it has over 14 songs and an outtake from that album as well) . Most of those ballads sound like they’re trying to be part II of “Amazing”, “Crying” or “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”. 15 songs may just be a little too much, if they cut some of it down it would have made for a shorter, tighter more Rock album, that’s my take on it.

Like many fans, it’s hard for me to hide my disappointment. Still better than Just Push Play that’s for sure, but I expected more from the hype Aerosmith had around this release. There are things to like but some that . I listened to it a few times by now and I can honestly say my rating is a 2 ‘ out of 5. Some of the Rock tracks are reminiscent of classic Aerosmith and energy charged tunes but overall it comes off as an album that didn’t know what direction it wanted to take. There have been some great releases by Classic bands this year, but sadly Aerosmith’s is not one of them I’m afraid.

2/5 stars

tommy

Part 96: Aerodouche Dandy

RECORD STORE TALES Part 96:  Aerodouche Dandy

The year:  2003. Aerosmith were in town, playing a private party for Research in Motion.  I know a few people who went.  But I also know someone who ran into Steven Tyler downtown that day.  (As an historic footnote, the opening act for that party was Barenaked Ladies.  Thanks to Melvin Lapandano for that information.)

The person who bumped into Tyler was “Dandy”, one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever worked with.  And that doesn’t even bother him, he used to be proud that he was a dick.  Once he dropped his façade and showed his true colours, I had no use for the guy.  He was the kind of lazy disinterested employee who knew when he was safe to screw the pooch and when he had to work, and who to kiss ass for brownie points.  He was an expert at keeping up appearances.

The only time Dandy did anything (arguably) funny was the time met Steven Tyler downtown.  But he was still a dick.

Aerosmith’s last album, Just Push Play was pretty dismal, loaded with pop, ballads and samples.  Even Joe Perry says it’s his least favourite album.

So, Aerosmith are in town to play the private party.  Dandy’s walking downtown, acting like a douche (that part is speculation, but it’s probably true), when he bumps into Steven Tyler.  The conversation went like this.

Dandy – “Hey!  You’re in Aerosmith, right?”

Tyler – “That’s right, how are you doing man?”

Dandy – “I’m OK.  You guys kind of suck now don’t you?”

Tyler – (frowns and walks away)

Dandy – “Cheers.”

Then, to conclude the story, Dandy told me, “Later on I saw the bass player too.  But I didn’t say anything to him.  He’s just the bass player, so it already sucks enough to be him.”

What a douchebag!